EDF Health

Beyond paper: PFAS linked to common plastic packaging used for food, cosmetics, and much more

Tom Neltner, Chemicals Policy Director, Maricel Maffini, consultant, and Tom Bruton with Green Science Policy Institute. 

Results from an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigation into PFAS-contaminated pesticides have much broader, concerning implications for food, cosmetics, shampoos, household cleaning products, and other consumer products, as well as recycling. This investigation, first announced earlier this year, found that fluorinated high-density polyethylene (HDPE) containers used for pesticide storage contained a mix of short and long-chain per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), including PFOA, that leached into the product. From what EPA can tell, the PFAS were not intentionally added to the HDPE containers but are hypothesized to have been produced when fluorine gas was applied to the plastic.

Since EPA released its investigation, we have learned the disturbing fact that the fluorination of plastic is commonly used to treat hundreds of millions of polyethylene and polypropylene containers each year ranging from packaged food and consumer products that individuals buy to larger containers used by retailers such as restaurants to even larger drums used by manufacturers to store and transport fluids.

The process of polyethylene fluorination was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1983 for food packaging to reduce oxygen and moisture migration through the plastic that would cause foods to spoil. The fluorination process forms a barrier on the plastic’s surface and it also strengthens the packaging.

Fluorination of plastic leading to the inadvertent creation of PFAS may be another reason these ‘forever chemicals’ show up in many unexpected places. This significant source of PFAS contamination needs to be addressed. Much remains to be resolved as FDA and EPA actively investigate this new source of PFAS; however, preventive steps need to be taken quickly, especially since other PFAS-free barrier materials are available as alternatives.

Growing evidence links PFAS to a wide range of serious health effects – from developmental problems to cancer.

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Also posted in EPA, FDA, PFAS, Regulation / Tagged , , | Comments are closed

Heart disease and adult lead exposure – the evidence grows more compelling

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

Two recent articles add to the already strong evidence that adult exposure to relatively low levels of lead is associated with heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, after COVID-19. These studies reinforce the urgent need to reduce not only children’s exposure to lead but also adult exposure through regulatory action.

A February 2021 Environmental Health Perspectives article found that blood lead levels were positively associated with prevalence of moderate to severe coronary artery stenosis (CAS), the narrowing of at least 25% of these vital arteries to the heart. The researchers studied a cohort of 2,000 Korean adults studied with no history of CAS, cardiovascular disease (CVD), or occupational exposure to lead. The vast majority of their blood lead levels were below the U.S. Center of Disease Control’s (CDC) reference level.[1] The researchers found that he severity of CAS is an important predictor for life threatening cardiovascular disease, even after adjusting for factors such as age, sex, hypertension, body mass index, regular exercise, smoking, and alcohol drinking.[2]

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Also posted in Emerging Science, lead / Tagged | Comments are closed

Re-visioning TSCA: Address the cumulative impacts of chemical exposures

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Lead Senior Scientist.

Part 4 of a 4-part series see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 here

This series of blog posts is looking ahead toward opportunities to advance a more robust and holistic vision for implementing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) as reformed in 2016.

We discussed in the preceding installments of this series the importance of ensuring that combined exposures to a chemical from multiple sources and the greater exposures and susceptibilities of certain groups are accounted for.  But it is critical to also recognize that many other factors influence the impacts chemical exposures have on our health.  This final installment in our series will discuss how TSCA can and should take into account all of these factors – that is, account for cumulative impacts.

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Also posted in EPA, Health Policy, TSCA Reform / Tagged | Comments are closed

Chemicals in hair products, making rent as a grad student, and more: A conversation with Dr. Tamarra James-Todd

Dr. Tamarra James-Todd’s interest in human health dates back to her childhood, when she would go into work with her mom, who was a microbiologist, on the odd weekend at the Kansas City VA Hospital. Now an epidemiologist at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, Dr. James-Todd has focused her career on understanding the impacts of toxic chemicals on women’s reproductive and long-term health in order to improve overall health.

Dr. Tamarra James-Todd

Through her research, she has found that 50% of hair care products marketed to Black women contain hormone disrupting chemicals, compared to only 7% advertised to white women based on product label information. Further, the use of these products, such as hair oils and chemical straighteners, can put girls and women at higher risk of health impacts including earlier age at puberty—a risk factor for breast cancer. In addition to assessing racial and ethnic differences in chemical exposure, Dr. James-Todd’s research also includes identifying how pregnancy and complications that occur during this period can impact a woman’s risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

I recently chatted with Dr. James-Todd about her work, how she got into the women’s environmental reproductive health field, and how COVID-19 has impacted her many research initiatives.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Also posted in Health Policy, Markets and Retail, Public Health / Comments are closed

Re-visioning TSCA: Better protect those at greater risk

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Lead Senior Scientist.

Part 3 of a 4-part series see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 4 here

This series of blog posts is looking ahead toward opportunities to advance a more robust and holistic vision for implementing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) as reformed in 2016.

In the preceding installment in this series, we discussed TSCA’s mandate for EPA to conduct comprehensive chemical evaluations.  The Trump EPA’s failure to do so especially detrimental to those groups at greater risk because they are more likely to face the precise exposures and susceptibilities that the Trump EPA excluded.  In this installment of our series, we will address how TSCA can and must be used to better protect those at greater risk from chemical exposures.

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Also posted in EPA, Health Policy, TSCA Reform / Tagged | Comments are closed

Re-visioning TSCA: Comprehensively assess and mitigate chemicals’ risks

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Lead Senior Scientist.

Part 2 of a 4-part series see Part 1, Part 3, and Part 4 here

After our look back in Part 1 of this series at the damage done over the past four years, the remainder of the series will look ahead and explore opportunities to advance a more robust and holistic vision for implementing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) as reformed in 2016.

In this installment, we will discuss why legal and effective TSCA implementation demands that EPA undertake comprehensive assessments of chemical risks that supersede the media-specific limitations of other environmental laws. Read More »

Also posted in EPA, Health Policy, TSCA Reform / Tagged | Comments are closed